Newsletter : 2fax0403.txt
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Israel Warns Syria and Hizbullah
By VOA News
Israel said Hizbullah guerrillas appear to be massing near its
northern border and it is warning the terrorist group, as well as
Syria that they are not immune from military retaliation. The
warning followed several days of cross-border rocket and mortar
attacks Israel blames on Syrian-backed Hizbullah fighters based in
south Lebanon. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel
would not hesitate to take defensive actions even though it has
soldiers engaged elsewhere.
Sharon Offers Arafat Offers Arafat 'One Way Ticket'
By VOA News
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would allow Yasir Arafat to
leave his Ramallah compound, with what he called "a one-way
The Israeli prime minister raised the possibility of exiling the
besieged Palestinian leader during a visit Tuesday to a West Bank
army base. He said European Union representatives could, if they
want, fly Arafat out by helicopter. But Sharon said if Arafat
leaves, he would not be able to return. He also said Arafat could
not take anyone with him. Sharon said there are "wanted people and
murderers" holed up with the Palestinian leader.
Palestinian officials said Arafat would not accept exile from his
homeland under any circumstances. Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told
reporters that Arafat believes not a single Palestinian will accept
going into exile. The Palestinian leader has said he would die a
martyr rather than give in to Israel.
In Brussels, European Union officials in Brussels said. Arafat
remains their chief Palestinian negotiating partner in any Mideast
peace talks. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he has asked
Sharon not to force Arafat into exile. Powell said the Palestinian
leader still has a role to play in the Mideast peace process.
He said that sending Arafat into exile would just give him another
place to "conduct the same kinds of activities and give the same
messages he is giving now." Powell also said that Israel has a
right to defend itself from terrorist attacks. He said the decision
on when to withdraw from the West Bank will be up to the Israelis.
Powell said he expects a troop withdrawal once Israel has "dealt
with the terrorist threats."
The Israeli cabinet last week decided to confine and isolate
Arafat, but left open the possibility of expelling him at a later
stage. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said such a decision could not
be taken without full approval of the cabinet, adding that he voted
against it in a earlier cabinet debate.
Palestinians Take Refuge At Christian Holy Site in Bethlehem
By VOA News
Palestinian gunmen battling Israeli forces in Bethlehem have taken
refuge in the Church of the Nativity, one of the holiest sites in
Christianity. Scores of armed gunmen entered the church after
several hours of fighting with Israeli forces who moved into
Bethlehem early Tuesday. Israel accused the gunmen of shooting from
inside the church, a charge the Palestinians denied.
The church is built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus, the
Christian messiah. At least seven Palestinians have been killed in
the Bethlehem fighting. Three of them were from the al-Aqsa
Brigade, an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Fatah group that has claimed
responsibility for several suicide bombings inside Israel.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian suicide bomber has blown himself up at an
Israeli checkpoint in the northern West Bank. No one else was
killed or wounded in the incident late Tuesday at Baka al-Sharkiya,
near the Palestinian town of Tulkarem.
Earlier, the Palestinians surrendered a major security compound
outside Ramallah after a fierce assault by Israeli forces. Israeli
tanks and helicopter gunships blasted the compound of the
Palestinian Preventive Security service in Beituniya for hours
Tuesday. Israeli forces later took away about 200 Palestinians for
questioning. Israel said that wanted militants were being sheltered
in the compound, a charge denied by West Bank security chief Jibril
Palestinian leader Arafat remained trapped inside his headquarters
in Ramallah, where he has been closely surrounded by Israeli forces
since Friday. Ramallah officials buried at least 15 Palestinians in
a mass grave Tuesday after the local morgue filled to overflowing
and bodies began to decompose.
Experts: Sharon Repeating Lebanon History
By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)
The two key leaders in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - Yasir
Arafat and Ariel Sharon - were in a similar situation 20 years ago.
Many experts in the region believe history may be repeating itself.
It was from Beirut, Lebanon, that Arafat was sent into exile in
1982, after being defeated in a military campaign masterminded by
then Defense Minister Sharon.The two have clear memories of the
siege of Beirut that led to Arafat being banished to Tunisia, where
he lived in exile until 1994, when he was authorized under peace
process accords to establish Palestinian self-rule inside the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who remains inside his Ramallah
headquarters under virtual house arrest, told CNN he feels he is
re-living the past. "For me it is not the first time. He [Sharon]
has to remember what happened in 88 days in Beirut."
Sharon hardly needs reminding. He has expressed sorrow at failing
to order the assassination of Arafat as the Palestinian leader
stood on the docks at Beirut in 1982, waiting to sail into exile.
An Israeli sniper reported he had Arafat in his sights for a clear
shot. But Sharon could not give the command because of a commitment
Israel had given to the United States not to harm the Palestinian
leader. Sharon said last week that he regretted having been forced
to give the same pledge again, this time to President Bush.
An Israeli commentator, Nahum Barnea, wrote in the Hebrew daily
newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that Sharon "has not changed his basic
conception since 1982."
Barnea said that for the prime minister, "the score is still
unsettled from then, waiting to be closed." The commentator said
this explains what he called Sharon's "tremendous urge to humiliate
Arafat," a humiliation that Barnea said "has no logical use, but is
just an old desire for revenge." But Barnea also said he believed
that Arafat "bears the main responsibility for the disaster that
has fallen on him and on his people."
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